A publication plan improves impact and makes author roles clear

2.6.2020

Metropolia University of Applied Sciences has developed a facilitated publication workshop model to make research and development work easier for authors.

Publicity and creating publications are an increasingly important part of a responsible research and development project and they increase the transparency of research and development activity.

A researcher has to share and communicate the knowledge that has emerged so that it can be approved as knowledge within the scientific community. However, publication is not merely reporting research and its results, nor is it an activity that purely takes place within the scientific community. Instead it is part of broader communication of research and development work and making it visible. Today’s multifaceted science communication is an intrinsic part of professional research and development.

Today’s multifaceted science communication is an intrinsic part of professional research and development.

In this article, we present a facilitated publication workshop method developed at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences which can be used to publish in an influential and planned manner while complying with responsible conduct of research and specifications regarding authorship.

Diversity and surrounding criteria on publication activities

Publication activity is partly steered by the readership interested in its content. The publication activities of higher education institutions are increasingly geared towards an audience outside the scientific community in the field in question. Those working on projects in research and development at higher education institutions have a responsibility to publish the results of their projects as broadly as possible such that they reach experts in the field, decision-makers and the general public. New information is exposed to broad dialogue and even research and development work that is not yet complete is communicated.

Publication channels have also developed. Alongside traditional channels, various electronic publication methods such as blogs and online articles, etc. have emerged, as well as channels that make use of sound and video. Social media brings a flavour of its own to disseminating publications.

Active publication is thus used to spread knowledge, discuss information and so develop society. Publication also has an impact on the reputation, brand and funding of higher education institutions and is a powerful element in the career development of teachers and researchers. The Vaikuttavuus syntyy vuorovaikutuksesta (Impact derives from interaction) investigative project run by the Rectors’ Conference of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences, Arene, found that one of the most essential impact skills that higher education institutions need to develop is communicating their knowhow, activities and impact.

Research and development is increasingly being carried out with external funding. A good project and research plan will also contain a publication and communication plan, which the majority of funding bodies also require. Project actors have a social responsibility to communicate their results and the phases of development work and to react to changes.

All of this poses challenges to those looking to publish: How do I make my own information stand out among the huge amount of information available? How do I as a research and development author make sure that correct, verified information is identified in the mass of hearsay? How do I find the right channel? What information to publish? And when is it important to emerge from your scholar’s hideaway?

Facilitated publication workshop helps researchers and developers

Metropolia University of Applied Sciences has developed a facilitated publication workshop model to make research and development work easier for authors in the light of the questions presented above. The workshop is held right at the start of a research and development project and in some cases it makes sense to carry it out as early as when applying for funding. The aim of the workshop is to produce a publication plan for the project and enable it to be carried out and followed up.

Metropolia University of Applied Sciences has developed a facilitated publication workshop model to make research and development work easier for authors.

The workshop, which lasts about three hours, is attended by all those working on the project and it is led by an external facilitator specialised in publication. There are four stages to the workshop. The aim of each step is to answer different questions and each step enables the participants to move to the next step.

Step 1: Orientation – starting points for publication. The aim of this step is to gain an understanding of the importance, opportunities and surrounding criteria of the publication activity.

Step 2: Mapping perspectives. The aim of this step is to clarify the content of the project.

Step 3: Defining target groups. The aim of this step is to sensibly target the communication and publication.

Step 4: Publication channels and authors. This is the step that brings everything together and where decisions are made. The end result is a concrete action plan and tools for following it up.

The workshop is a one-off, but the most important thing is that the publication plan that emerges from it is updated throughout the project. The project is a constantly developing process and information may emerge along the way which will change the plan. Sometimes the group of people working on the project will also change and then the plan will need to be updated. A good and responsible way of monitoring realisation of the plan is to examine it regularly in the project group, and also, for example, in a project steering group.

Professional facilitator supports success

What is essential about the publication workshop is that its work is steered by an external facilitator. In her book Fasilitointi luo uutta (Facilitation creates something new) (Talentum, 2012), Piritta Kantojärvi describes how facilitation means neutrally steering a group process. A facilitator is a person outside the group and the factual content, who helps and acts as a sparring partner as the group works, selecting suitable tools and procedures to help the group make the most of all of their capacity. The group members are experts in the content and at the facilitated event they are the ones responsible for making decisions and carrying out the actions.

According to Kantojärvi, interaction between the facilitator and the group enables the topic being discussed to be viewed from outside. The facilitator knows how to ask the kind of questions that someone who works with the topic every day does not notice. An external facilitator also enables the members of the group to participate in full as none of them are responsible for running the event.

It is essential to the success of the workshop that ideas flow freely on the one hand and that decisions are made on the other. The facilitator is responsible for ensuring that both happen during the workshop. It is also essential to the success of the publication workshop that the facilitator has both the expertise in facilitation and is a professional in communication and publication.

Challenges of authorship

On the basis of our experience, the workshop encourages participants to think about publication as a tool for communication and impact. It produces a framework which enables publications to be got off the ground in good time, targets publications at the right channels and makes working more focused throughout the entire course of the project towards influential publication.

From the point of view of research integrity, it also clarifies questions relating to authorship. Research and development work is not done alone. Projects always involve a group of people who increasingly represent different scientific fields and their associated rules and working methods, as well as, frequently, different organisations. They have different expertise and experience of publication activities and have their own practices linked to writing and authorship of publications. Although the publication will officially be produced by the organisations carrying out the project, behind them, however, are always the project actors, in which case authorship is personalised. The project funding body also has an impact on the end result.

A detailed publication and communication plan produced when the project is launched prevents confusion arising regarding authorship.

At best, the project actors’ multi-disciplinary, multi-professional expertise encourages a diversity of publications and publication channels. Confusion in a multi-disciplinary group regarding the form authorship takes can, however, cause problems associated with publications. From the point of view of research integrity, authorship is linked to criteria regarding the author’s role which must be met when a person is named as an author of a publication. The criteria concern participation in the different stages of a research and development project, responsibility for writing the publication and role in the project. Practices relating to authorship differ in different scientific fields, for example even regarding the order in which authors’ names are listed.

A detailed publication and communication plan produced when the project is launched prevents confusion arising regarding authorship. A good plan sets out in what order and on what principle the names will be listed in publications. TENK’s recommendation regarding authorship of research publications highlights discussing authorship principles in good time and agreeing them in writing. A good publication and communication plan prevents authorship disputes arising.

Elina Ala-Nikkola, Master of Culture and Arts, is a culture producer specialised in communication, facilitation and research, development and innovation, who works at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences as a publications coordinator and has developed the facilitated publication workshop method.

Leena Rekola, PhD, is a principal lecturer in research, development and innovation and researcher in clinical nursing and first aid at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. She works in multi-disciplinary research and development projects in the various stages and roles of their lifecycle and is a research integrity adviser at Metropolia.